The back of the book tries to make it sound like it’s about Kristy and Cary Retlin bickering with each other, but it’s really a PSA about why banning books is bad. Which is really annoying, because I ALREADY think it’s bad and don’t need convoluted plots to convince me.
Anyway, Kristy’s English teacher had a baby and while she’s on maternity leave her class has a new teacher, Mr. Morely. Mr. Morley’s young and encourages everyone to call him “Ted.” He gives the class two assignments. The first is to pick a novel from a list he gives out and do a report on how it makes them feel, and the second is to write a biography on someone else in the class. He assigns pairs for the biography part and Kristy and Cary get partnered up. They try and say they can’t work together because it worked out badly last time, but Ted insists.
Now, it turns out that list of books Ted gave out was questioned by some parent who thinks the books on it contain filth and violence and all sorts of crap like that. It also turns out that because Ted was new, he didn’t know he was supposed to run all assignments past the head of the English department. I think this is to make it seem like Ted did something wrong even if you don’t care about banning books, and make the whole situation more dire. The head later says she would have approved the list, so I don’t know why they bother with that whole point. But whatever.
I guess the parents are putting a lot of pressure on the school, because Ted’s suspended, his job’s in danger, there’s a big meeting about it the whole town goes to, etc. It seems like it should be the B plot, but it felt like we spent more time on it. That may just be because it annoyed me so much. Kristy ends up encouraging her class to support Ted, and she speaks at the meeting about it. And ultimately he gets reinstated. Obviously.
As for the Cary stuff: Kristy’s at his house to interview his siblings for the biography project and walks by his room after using the bathroom. She can’t resist taking a peak and looking around his room. She sees a notebook that she thinks is his homework, but then she realizes it’s a journal. (At least she thinks it’s a journal). It’s talking about getting kicked out of school and loading things on a computer and hating people for being “phonies.” Now, the use of the word “phony” made me think of Catcher in the Rye, because I remember Holden Caulfield using the word a lot. I may only have thought of it because that was one of the first books mentioned on Ted’s list. I thought Cary was doing his project on Catcher in the Rye and that we were going to find out the “journal” was just his version of notes about the book. I figured Kristy would keep thinking it was his journal and somehow embarrass herself about the whole thing, but ultimately find out she was wrong. I was only partially right.
So, Kristy feels super guilty about it, and tries to forget what she saw/pretend it never happened. But she lets it slip to Cary that she read it. Cary’s super pissed and barely talks to Kristy for days. He supports her when she says they should defend Ted, but totally shuts down after that. Then, at a meeting with Ted (after his job’s reinstated), Ted asks Cary how his novel’s coming and says how great it must be to be able to write by hand instead of needing a computer (like he does). Kristy realizes it wasn’t a journal and is mad at Cary for letting her think she did something so wrong. But Cary tells her it’s just as personal because he puts a lot of himself into his stories. Kristy ultimately apologizes to him and they sorta make up.
- The two projects are each 50% of Kristy’s grade. So, if this teacher came in the middle of the semester, how can his two projects be their entire grade? It’s kind of disrespectful to the teacher who started the year.
- Books on the offending list: Catcher and the Rye, A Separate Peace, Homecoming, The Outsiders, The Red Pony, and probably others.
- Kristy has a Christmas party that she describes as a “real party” not just girls sleeping over but with dancing and music and guys and all that. I guess it’s a sign she’s maturing, from her immature days years ago back in 8th grade when she had sleepovers.
- We get a reference to another BSC book that talked about how much banning books suck. I get the point already BSC!
- Kristy’s disappointed that Mary Anne isn’t excited about her party, but then she realizes it must be because she “just” broke up with her boyfriend. But I think that’s about two months ago by this point. Mary Anne needs to get over it. She’s the one that ended it, and I get it would still be hard, but really.
- Kristy sees kids talking excitedly in the halls and wonders if it’s about the space shuttle or something. Which just seems like a really random thing to reference. But it turns out everyone is just talking about Ted.
- 8th Grade seems kind of young to have kids calling the teacher by their first name. Maybe I’m just getting old.
- Okay, Cary cracks me up. Kristy asks what state he was born in and he says “a state of innocence.” Then she asks about his first memory and he says he “can’t recall.” I can see how that would annoy her, but I think it’s funny. Especially the second one.
- Claudia and Jeremy were partners in the biography thing. So, this causes a bit of angst with Stacey and Claudia. I wish we’d seen more of it. It causes tension because Claudia mentions a story that Jeremy hadn’t told Stacey yet, and says how Jeremy told her about his most meaningful experience. That one scene alone was more interesting than the rest of the book put together.
- Logan’s partner in the biography thing is that Rachel girl. It would have been really interesting to hear some of what went on between them, but sadly we don’t hear a thing. This makes sense, since the book is from Kristy’s POV, but still. Anytime we got to hear Logan’s voice over the course of the series it was with him and Mary Anne together and happy.
- We meet some girl named Merrie, whose mother’s the driving force behind the whole protest thing. So the kids aren’t super nice to her, but she ends up defending Ted at the big meeting in front of her mother. Brave move, but she’s going to have a hard time when she gets home after that.
- The one issue I had with this book…..it takes place in Connecticut. It’s a pretty liberal area. So, while I believe that there may be a couple parents who would freak out about certain books, I don’t believe it would be enough to get a teacher to get suspended and cause a huge crowd at a school board meeting. Especially if the teacher had the support of the head of his department and the principal. AND if the books are all pretty much classics. They’d probably just talk to the teacher and make a new rule or something. That’s what they did in my school when someone’s parent complained that they showed us Heaven and Earth, which has a rape scene in it. After that we had to get permission slips for any movie a teacher showed that wasn’t rated G.
- Cary has MC Escher drawings and Salvador Dali paintings (prints, I’m assuming) in his room. And a bulletin board full of weird newspaper headlines. I think he must be a really interesting guy.
- In class, Cokie Mason asks about their assignments and gets ready to take super-detailed notes about them. But since when does Cokie even think about schoolwork?
- Kristy hears teachers in the hallway talking about how they support Ted because of the 1st Amendment. So, Kristy goes to the library to look up what that is. And while I appreciate that she puts the effort in to do this, and that Ann M Martin’s trying to teach kids about free speech, it is really annoying to read about when I am very familiar with all that information.
- This thing about not turning in the list for approval is silly. Ted says how his old school was a private school and lesson plans were at his discretion. But if he came in the middle of the year, he would probably have notes from the teacher he was replacing about what she was teaching. And I would expect him to do his own thing, but it shouldn’t seem like he was going totally from scratch.
- Plus, again, the head ends up saying she would have approved the list. So it’s pointless.
- When Cary interviews Sam about Kristy, Sam tells him about the “Spaghetti Episode.” Kristy’s all horrified that Sam would do this but then tells us she isn’t going to explain. Totally unfair. If they’re going to give us a super-boring book, they could at least give us an embarrassing story or two.
- So, Watson calls the school to give his support for Ted and Claudia’s mom speaks at the school board meeting (being a librarian and all). The BSC parents sure are activist-y. It must be where the girls get it.
- Kristy’s elected to speak on behalf of her class at the big school board meeting for Ted. And she talks about being nervous about it. Really? Since when is Kristy nervous about speaking in public?
- Mallory, Jessi, Abby, and Shannon all show up for Kristy’s party. As does Dawn, who’s there for Christmas. They barely get any screen time, but we see them all mentioned, which I think is a good thing.
- I can’t believe Kristy was my favorite character at one point, and I've liked her Friends Forever books the least.
- If Cary's writing a novel, he sort of sucks since what we saw was really a lot like Catcher in the Rye. Just with the word computer thrown in.
- Ted shows up at Kristy's party. Which seems really inappropriate to me. Even if her parents were home.
- At the party, Mary Anne keeps avoiding Logan. Like, if she walks into a room and sees him she goes into another room. I can understand how she’d feel, but it’s kind of annoying to hear about her being so awkward about the whole thing.
- Speaking of Logan at the party, he ends up chatting with Emily Bernstein. Kristy doesn’t know if that means anything, but it’s mentioned like it could be. I don’t think they’d actually work as a couple. Logan didn’t seem to like when Mary Anne managed to be a little assertive, and Emily’s much more assertive than Mary Anne.
- Kristy DOES ask Mary Anne if it’s okay to invite Logan to the party. She thinks it would be weird not to ask him since all his friends would be there. And Mary Anne says okay. But like I said, she gets all awkward about it.
- What I like about Ted’s first assignment is that he tells them to do the report on a book they are passionate about. So, if they don’t like the first one they start, pick another until they do. Which seems like an interesting approach to get kids into reading.
- The problem with the biography part of the assignment is all the 8th graders in this school already wrote their autobiographies, so the kids should just swap those as source material.
- Back when Kristy’s dog Louie died, didn’t we hear that he was named after the song Louie Louie? Or did David Michael just like the song because of the name. Cause Cary asks Kristy why they named him that she says, “it just came to us.” I don’t have a copy of that book to check.